The Biggest Elephant In Every Room

The Biggest Elephant In Every Room

Everywhere you go…there’s a huge elephant in the room. He’s so big that you don’t see him…the room just looks smaller than it is. He’s in your workplace. He’s in the car with you when someone cuts you off. He’s with you at home when you’re trying to decide between that bag of chips and an apple. He’s really there when you’re trying to talk to your teenager!

Sometimes, you bump into him and remember that he’s there, but you put him out of your mind because he makes you uncomfortable. The biggest elephant in every room is this: Psychology Drives Everything.
People invest in learning about their jobs and take courses on everything from money management to salsa dancing, yet spend little time and effort on the single biggest influence in their lives. Companies spend millions on employee engagement, but little of that on training in Psychology. Investment in Psychology is usually geared only towards understanding customer buying behaviour.

Understanding ego dynamics, personality structure, and cognitive processes can positively change the way you see yourself and interact with others. There are many compelling reasons to graft Psychology training onto both your personal and business life.

1. It’s fascinating and fun to understand the sheer complexity and texture of being human.

2. Understanding yourself and others provides a more objective view of what you see and experience. This allows you to think strategically about your actions rather than reacting emotionally.

3. A psychological perspective enables the single most powerful interpersonal skill: Therapeutic Distance. This is the ability to maintain emotional detachment so that you can truly listen and understand the other person. Stephen Covey (1989) said,

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

4. Therapeutic Distance not only enhances listening, it helps you keep your cool, prevents arguing, and reduces stress. It helps you find solutions to problems and to create true value for yourself and others.

5. Psychology can dramatically improve your personal life and occupational success.

Psychology Changes The Way You Deal With Challenges

Challenge: Your employer wants you to motivate your subordinates.

What does Psychology say? You can’t motivate anyone to do something for which they aren’t intrinsically motivated. You can only create the conditions that either engage or suppress their inherent motivation. So hire motivated people…then get out of their way to avoid destroying their motivation.

Challenge: You want to make that sale, but are encountering resistance.

What does Psychology say? Resistance is a sign that you’re not aligned with your customer’s stage of readiness for change. Most salespeople want action in the form of an order. But customers go through six well-researched stages in moving from Precontemplation to Action. According to Prochaska and Velicer (1997),

“Interventions to change behaviour are more effective if they are matched to each individual’s stage of readiness for change”.

Challenge: You’re struggling to communicate with a rebellious teenager

What does Psychology say? We’re hard-wired to disengage from our parents after puberty to create our own genetic lineage. Nature doesn’t know that in modern society most kids aren’t equipped to survive and thrive before their early 20’s. Hormonal changes fuel the drive to disidentify with parents. This sets the stage for tremendous conflict. Learning to listen without judgment and withholding opinions unless asked is a great place to start. Research tells us that the most effective parenting style is the Authoritative model, where children recognize that their parents are reliable sources of guidance with their best interest at heart. Authoritarian, Uninvolved, and Permissive parenting styles all produce poorer long-term outcomes (Siegler et al., 2006).

Where to start?

The good news is that you don’t need to go back to college and take Psych courses. There is a wealth of material easily accessible online. Both the American Psychological Association (APA) and Psychology Today have excellent free articles posted daily on newsfeeds within Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms. Just Like them and you’ll start getting lots of great material to whet your appetite. Psychology Today has an excellent website with lots of free articles. You may even want to subscribe and grab a digital or hard copy of the magazine.

There are also a few classic books and journal articles to consider:

    Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: the exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman.
    Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
    Beck, A.T. (1989). Love is never enough: How couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and solve relationship problems through cognitive therapy. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks.
    Beck, A.T., Freeman, A., & Davis, D.D. (2003). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
    H. Davanloo (1990) “Unlocking the Unconscious; Selected papers of Habib Davanloo”, MD, Chichester, England: Wiley Sons
    Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (Penguin 1973)
    Maslow, Abraham H. (1999). Toward a Psychology of Being (3. ed.). New York: Wiley.
    Marcus, Eric (1999). “Modern ego psychology”. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. 47 (3): 844–872.

By: Steve Courmanopoulos, Ph.D. (Psych)

Dr. Courmanopoulos is the Senior Partner and CEO of Medius International Inc, a global consulting firm leveraging the latest evidence-based Psychology in three areas: Intelligence, Strategy, and Organizational Development.


  • Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York: Free Press.
  • Prochaska, J. O., Velicer, WF. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. Am J Health Promot; 12(1):38–48.
  • Siegler, R. S., DeLoache, J. S., and Eisenberg, N. (2006). How Children Develop. New York

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